David MottonSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Tow cars’ written by David Motton
Audi has been using the hashtag '#untaggable' to promote the new Q2 on social media. It's part SUV, part coupé, they say. It is, according to Audi, "whatever you want it to be".
Really? It's a small crossover. It might be unusual for a prestige car maker to build a crossover of this size (it's over 20cm shorter than a BMW X1 or a Mercedes-Benz GLA). But this is not some genre-busting, radical reinvention of the motor car.
Beneath the burden of the marketing team's purple prose there's a very capable small car trying to get out, and one that has potential as a tow car if you own a lightweight caravan.
Check out the range
There are a couple of cracking petrol engines – a three-cylinder 116PS (114bhp) 1.0-litre and a 150PS (148bhp) 1.4-litre. I've tried both in other VW Group cars and really rate them for solo driving.
The more powerful of the two should also pass muster for towing, with a kerbweight of 1340kg for the manual version (including 75kg for the driver not included in Audi's published unladen weight). The legal towing limit is 1500kg. There's also an 'S tronic' auto weighing another 15kg with an identical legal towing limit.
The diesels are better suited to regular towing, though, and Audi offers a choice of two. I've been driving the less powerful option, the 116PS 1.6-litre diesel. Six-speed manual and seven-speed S tronic gearboxes are available, with kerbweights starting from 1385kg and a legal towing limit of 1500kg with either 'box.
Despite the shrunken SUV appearance, the 1.6 diesel is front-wheel drive rather than a 4x4, but even on damp roads the Q2 does a good job of putting its power to the road. With 184lb ft of torque performance is fairly steady, mind you.
Low emissions and good fuel economy take priority over lively acceleration with this engine, with an official combined figure of 64.2mpg and emissions of 114g/km. Those numbers compare with 67.3mpg and 111g/km for the current Mini Countryman Cooper D.
The gearing has clearly been chosen with fuel efficiency in mind, so I sometimes found myself needing a lower ratio than expected. It's more a characteristic than a fault, and something that's easy to get used to.
However, it's a shame the engine isn't quieter. It's clattery when cold and becomes vocal under hard acceleration.
The modest kerbweight gives an 85% match figure of 1177kg. I wouldn't be tempted to a tow a caravan weighing much more than this, not necessarily for the sake of stability but because performance would be rather sluggish.
On the road
I haven't had the chance to tow with the Q2, but the Audi's solo handling suggests it would make a secure tug for any sensibly matched tourer. Our test car came with the standard suspension set-up, which delivers crisp and agile cornering with minimal lean. Despite the car's modest straight-line performance, it's very enjoyable to drive down an empty country road.
The Audi Drive Select system (£225 on SE cars and standard on the rest of the range) gives a choice of modes for the throttle and steering. But after playing with the different settings for a while I tended to leave the system set to 'auto'. There's not a huge difference in throttle response between 'auto' and 'dynamic'. And although there's more weight to the steering in 'dynamic' mode, there's no more feel.
The trade-off for lively handling is a rather firm ride, even on the standard 17-inch alloys, but it's not so harsh I couldn't live with it. I'd think twice before ordering the car with bigger wheels, though, and would give the optional sports suspension (a no-cost change on S Line and Edition#1 cars) a miss.
Adaptive damping costs £875 on Sport models and £575 on S Line and Edition#1 cars (it's not available on SE models). I haven't yet driven a Q2 with this option fitted, but it works well on other Audi models.
Even on the standard suspension, the Q2 feels like it could handle a lot more power. It gets it if you choose the 2.0-litre diesel, with 150PS (148bhp) and 251lb ft of torque. This is the only engine available with Quattro four-wheel drive, which increases the kerbweight to 1550kg and sees the legal towing limit jump to 1800kg. For regular towing, this looks like the pick of the range.
Inside the Q2, the driver and front seat passenger get plenty of space, and the driving position is just as comfortable as in Audi's larger Q models. However, rear-seat space is quite tight. It's broadly on a par with other small crossovers (think the Mazda CX-3 and Nissan Juke), but there's no doubt you can buy much roomier cars than the Q2 for the same money if you can live with a less prestigious badge.
Mainstream rivals would struggle to match the finish of the Audi Q2's cabin, though. There's some surprisingly hard plastics on top of the doors, but otherwise the Q2's interior is well made and full of pleasing design touches.
Prices start from £20,230 for the 1.0-litre TFSI petrol, rising to £35,730 for the range-topping 2.0 TDI Quattro Edition#1. That's an eye-watering price for such a small car, even one with four rings on the bonnet. Our 1.6 TDI SE is priced at £22,480. That's still a lot, but at least it's within touching distance of reasonable.
I can see someone towing the new Swift Basecamp behind an Audi Q2. Like Swift's new caravan, the Audi is for someone who sees downsizing as a positive choice rather than a compromise. But although it's enjoyable to drive and well made, as a tow car there are heavier and more practical alternatives.